Monday, January 07, 2013

The Hobbit

I said, "I'm leaving Dana the Tolkien Purist at the Door."

I said, "I'm not going to have high expectations."

I said, "Going at midnight will be fun. I'm taking Gretchen!"

I said, "It's Peter Jackson. Could I go too terribly wrong?"

I said.


The late summer before my fifth grade year, my mother read The Hobbit aloud to my sister and I. Several years later, I read the book aloud to another younger sibling (Gretchen). And then Jen. And then (partially) to Isaac. I had the voices down. I knew the plot twists. I knew the map of Bilbo and Dwarves treking across Middle Earth by heart.

I love The Hobbit as a book and story.

But I said. I said I would set that aside to see the film.

I tried. I did. I wanted to like it. I did. I went in pre-disposed to accept changes and tweaks to the plot and character arcs and and and...

I hated it.


Pause for a comment about personal tastes: I'm so tempted to stand up and yell, "Because I love Tolkien more than you do, I have more of a right to hate this movie and you should agree with me! Just look at my Tolkien Loving Credentials! Look! Look!" Except that doesn't work because I know people with even more Points in the Tolkien Loving TriWizard Tournament (ignore the mixed mythologies right there) than me. And they loved it. So I put that membership card away right now. I'll do my best to explain why I felt like throwing tomatos at the screen by the end. And I concede that you don't love Tolkien less than you should if you liked the film.


Some Things I Loved

  • Gandalf and Bilbo exchanging "Good Mornings" and the dwarves appearing and the dinner and the singing of lost gold and Bilbo slowly being won over to this strange adventure. It was straight out of my head. Beautiful.
  • Martin Freeman is Bilbo. His performance was extraordinary. Perfect. He was meant for the part.
  • The scene of Riddles in the Dark was worth the cost of admission. Two of the most interesting Tolkien characters talking in a dark cave, being played by two extraordinary actors who embody the parts. It could not have been better than it was.
Some Things that Make Me Forget the Things I Loved
  • The opening sequence. I was put off by the awkward narration and strange back story. All of this is in The Hobbit. Or at least in the appendixes. But it didn't introduce the world the way the same kind of sequence did at the beginning of The Fellowship. It was an old tool used one too many times. It would have worked better later. I was just ready for the Shire to appear and deal with the dwarves later. I didn't care about them any more after that opening sequence.
  • Visuals. It looked and felt like an animated film. I infinitely prefer the gritty quality to the textures and filming of LOTR. None of the created characters looked real. They looked totally CGI. I don't want CGI. I want real things that have just a bit of CGI to make them work (see Orcs from LOTR). The goblins? Please. Who thought that would work? And if I have to see one more fantasy film where people fall from a great height and don't die... I'm giving up on fantasy films.
  • Script (Issue #1): Character development. The dwarves were the strangest non developed characters. And why did the great counsel appear at Rivendell? And then when they are developed, its through stereotypes. Thorin has father issues expressed in a need for self-sufficiency. And Radagast... poor wizard.
  • Script (Issue #2): Dialogue. (translated Orc talk) "Drink their blood!" Umm... what? To quote one viewer, "This could have been a George Lucas script." (inarticulate groaning from me)
  • Script (Issue #3): The moments we all pause so someone can explain the them of the film. "I just want to give you dwarves a home." And. "I would have died without you! Let's be best friends as the sun sets in this beautiful concluding scene!"
  • It was boring. Oh dear Eru, did I just have to say that? I was bored. I was checking the time about an hour in to see how much longer I'd have to sit there.
But here is the key issue: it acted and behaved like a fantasy films that has been made 10 times in the last few decades. It wasn't Tolkien. It was a genre production that was based on Tolkien.


And I'll still probably go see the next one.


Anonymous said...

thanks for share.

Caleb Rebarchak said...

Thanks for sharing this, Dana. You bring up some good points in this. There was something about the picture quality that did make things look a bit more CGI than in LOTR (which my friend said happens in the Blu-Ray version of LOTR). The other evening I was reading through Tolkien's "Unfinished Tales" the other night, and it seems as though there was a meeting of the Council, where Gandalf told them about the Necromancer (it doesn't give a location for this, however). While Radagast was a bit odd (I found some notes on him in the "Unfinished Tales" too) I thought that they did a good job at making him into a full-blown character. Something that I liked was how they kept some of the songs from the book, and didn't make them cheesy in the process. The soundtrack as a whole is great, I think (I've listened to it a few times in the past few weeks).
While it doesn't stay true to the book, and has cliche things (such as the chase scene), I still enjoyed it as an adventure (enough to see it again soon). Looks like we might have to agree to disagree (and I won't even challenge your Tolkien credentials, because you have way more than me!). I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on it!